(“Gisborne Herald” – Thurs 25th June 2015)
A donation of $142,000 from Eastland Community Trust to Gisborne City Vintage Rail will cover more than half of the costs to bring the railway line between Gisborne and Muriwai up to scratch. Earlier this month KiwiRail agreed to give the city’s steam train ‘Wa’165 a right of access to that part of the track.
The future of the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line has been up in the air after a storm in March 2012 caused slips that took out the track in the Beach Loop area. The line was then mothballed by the Government.
Gisborne City Rail has been trying to get access to part of the track ever since and president Geoff Joyce is rapt with today’s news about finding. There is a total of $230,000 needed to get the track up to standard.
“We’ve got a little more work to do but it’s great to think we’re on track to service our cruise ship business, the revenue from which will also help maintain the lines in to the future – helping as to continue to run a sustainable service for locals and visitors alike,” he says.
The money will be used to help to replace a number of bridge sleepers, for structural maintenance on one or two of the bridges, particularly the wooden ones, and other general work on the track. The society wants ‘Wa’165 back up and running in time for Labour Weekend.
“We would like to have a public run before the cruise ships start coming. We need to get back into operational mode and retrain and refresh. The last time we ran the train was March last year.”
The $142,000 is the first distribution from ECT’s new contestable investment pool, earmarked for projects that contribute to regional economic growth. Eastland Community Trust general manager Leighton Evans says the economic benefit to the region are significant and well quantified by Gisborne City Vintage Rail.
“It has become abundantly clear ‘Wa’165 supplies a point of difference for our fledging cruise industry, with Cruise New Zealand citing the steam train as the primary reason for including Gisborne in its itinerary. “Forecasts indicate the cruise ships will have a $5 million economic benefit to the region for the 2015-16 season alone. With 40 cruise ship visits booked well into 2019, it’s vital we ensure the viability of the line and, by extension, those opportunities for our wider business community,” he said.
While the economic benefits spoke for themselves, Mr Evans said the applicant’s track record was an important aspect of the decision making process.
Gisborne City Vintage Rail prepared a robust business case and demonstrated capacity. They have been operating since 1985, initially restoring the train, and have been operating the Beach Loop line for 15 years.
They’ve successfully navigated some rail challenges in those 30 years and that experience, tenacity and resilience gave the trust confidence to move forward with the proposal.”